Community Cooks: This brisket recipe uses Atlanta’s hometown soft drink

Southerners long have used Coca-Cola to make a sauce for braising brisket. CONTRIBUTED BY RENEE BROCK, FOOD STYLING BY WENDELL BROCK

Anne Stanley is a retired nurse who worked in the cardiovascular ICU at Emory University Hospital for more than 40 years.

“I love to cook, and would always have more than I needed, so I’d bring it in to work,” Stanley said in a recent phone call. “A lot of my co-workers did not cook, so they especially enjoyed my cooking.”

Stanley lives in Peachtree Hills, where she still cooks almost every day, and tends a small vegetable garden.

“My yard is very tiny, but somehow I have squeezed in 30 tomato plants, and eggplant, and asparagus, and some jalapeño peppers,” she said.

The pandemic has not changed her cooking habits. “I had to be a little more organized, because usually I run to the store every other day,” she said. “I’m very impulsive. I see a recipe, and I think, ‘Oh my gosh, I want to make that today.’ So, I had to do a little bit more planning, but it didn’t really change anything.”

Anne Stanley cooks and gardens at her home in Peachtree Hills. CONTRIBUTED BY ANNE STANLEY

Stanley also is an avid recipe collector. “Ever since I was a teenager, I have been very interested in good food and cooking,” she said. “Whenever I go out to eat at a restaurant, and there’s something I really like, I always talk the chef into sharing the recipe with me.”

One of her favorites is a brisket recipe that calls for Coca-Cola as the featured ingredient. It appeared in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2010, as part of a story about “The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook.”

“I think it’s a great recipe,” Stanley said. “I have made that a lot. I had one co-worker who just begged me to make it. So, it is a hit. It feeds a lot of people. And, it’s easy to do. You cook it for four hours and it’s done. The only thing I would say is, you do need to watch and make sure you have enough liquid in the pan while it’s cooking, or it can burn.”

For a complete meal, Stanley likes to serve Atlanta Brisket with green beans and mashed potatoes.

“I think it would be very delicious, even without the Coke,” she said. “But, it is really delicious with it.”

Southerners long have used Coca-Cola to make a sauce for braising brisket. CONTRIBUTED BY RENEE BROCK, FOOD STYLING BY WENDELL BROCK


Atlanta Brisket 

In “The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook,” Eli Evans confirms that the “secret” to this brisket is in an old advertising jingle: “Coke is it.” While many recipes call for putting Coca-Cola in the cooking liquid, the Evans family’s cooks apparently marinated the beef in the syrupy soft drink. We added a little to the cooking pan as well. Although you can skip the Coke, and the ketchup, if you like, this method yields a rich, deeply burnished gravy. The four-hour cook time results in meat that shreds upon slicing. Shorten the roasting time to about 2 to 2½ hours if you want sliced meat.

Atlanta Brisket 
  • 1 3-pound brisket
  • 5 cups Coca-Cola, divided (four cups for marinade, plus one cup for cooking liquid, if desired)
  • kosher salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 packet Lipton’s French onion soup mix
  • 1 cup ketchup (optional)
  • 2 onions, peeled and sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Place brisket in a dish, cover with four cups of the Coca-Cola and marinate, covered, in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Heat oven to 375 degrees. Drain brisket. Rub the meat all over with kosher salt and black pepper. Heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven, and brown brisket on both sides, about 5 minutes per side.
  • In a small bowl, place the French onion soup mix, the remaining cup of Coca-Cola (if using), 1 cup of ketchup (if using) and 1 cup of water. (If omitting Coca-Cola and ketchup, use 3 cups of water.) Stir until mixed well. Pour over brisket. Place onions around the brisket and toss in the two bay leaves. Cover with a lid or tinfoil, and cook in the oven for four hours, basting every hour and checking to make sure the meat is not sticking on the bottom. Flip the meat once to make sure it cooks evenly. (As the sauce cooks down, you may need to add water, a half-cup at a time, to keep the meat wet and make the gravy.)
  • After four hours, the brisket should be fork tender. Remove from the oven, allow the meat to rest until cooled, and slice against the grain. Arrange on a platter and cover with sauce.Serves: 8

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 382 calories (percent of calories from fat, 39), 37 grams protein, 21 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 16 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 106 milligrams cholesterol, 931 milligrams sodium.

Adapted from “The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook,” edited by Sara Roahen and John T. Edge (University of Georgia Press, $24.95).

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